In the wake of what has been described as the worst mass shooting at a place worship in American history, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) called for prayers for the victims. Thousands of his critics immediately criticized him, demanding further restrictions on Second Amendment rights instead. President Donald Trump said of the shooting, "Mental health is your problem here," while dismissing claims that American gun laws are at issue.  

Ryan tweeted: "Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now."

On Sunday, at about 11:30 a.m. local time, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire with rifle inside the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Sutherlland Springs, Texas, where his second wife's family worshipped. The former U.S. airman killed 26 persons, including a pregnant woman and several children. He fled the church but was confronted by a local civilian who managed to shoot and wound Kelley. Kelley took a hostage and drove off in a pickup truck while two civilians pursued him at high speed in another vehicle in the little town that lies about 35 miles southeastof San Antonio. Kelley eventually drove the truck into a ditch. Reports are unclear as to how he died. Some say that he shot himself, while others say that he succumbed to wounds he received from others.

Anti-gun campaigners and others lashed out at Ryan, demanding gun control. Among them was gay activist and actor George Takei of "Star Trek," and MSNBC host Joy Reid.

Some anti-gun campaigners advocated for making gun manufacturers legally liable for criminal acts attributed to their products, while others called for banning ammunition.

President Trump expressed condolences to the victims of the massacre.

While in Japan to visit his counterpart, President Donald Trump denounced the "horrible act of evil" that took place at the little Texas church. As released by the White House, his statement read:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today’s murderous attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This horrible act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they loved. Our hearts are broken. But in dark times such as these, Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms. And through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong.

"My Administration is providing its full support to the state and local authorities investigating this horrible crime. I have spoken with Governor Abbott, and we offer our thanks to the first responders who ultimately stopped the suspect and rendered immediate and lifesaving aid to the victims of this shooting. I will continue to follow developments closely. All of America is praying to God to help the wounded and the families – we will never leave their side."

During a press conference in Tokyo, the president expanded on his initial statements. Trump said that the Texas church shooting was caused by a "mental health problem," not an issue with gun laws. "Mental health is your problem here," Trump said. He said that "based on preliminary reports" the killer was "a very deranged individual." He added, "This isn't a guns situation," saying, "This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event."
"A very, very sad event, but that's the way I view it," Trump said.

“Disbelief and shock are the overwhelming feelings; there are no adequate words," said Cathoic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. "There can be no explanation or motive for such a scene of horror at a small country church for families gathered to praise Jesus Christ.”

 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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